I’m sick to death of movie trailers that spoil the central plot or conflict of a film. For instance, the latest Batman Vs. Superman trailer pretty much spoils that entire film’s conceit. I won’t even mention how here because I consider it a fairly grievous spoiler. True, I haven’t seen that film yet, but I’m pretty sure we’ve been given too many details in the trailers already.
The Revenant is one of the worst offenders of this phenomenon I can think of in recent years. The film, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a terrific experience even if you have had the misfortune of seeing its second trailer. It’s one of the most beautiful, tense, and violent movies I’ve seen in a good long while. But that doesn’t excuse this marketing blunder, and Iñárritu himself, as well as everyone else who poured themselves into making this film, should be just as upset as I am.
I’m going to go into a bit of spoiler territory here, but not too far beyond the trailer itself (which was spoiler enough!)
First off, here’s the trailer, which I strongly urge you not to watch if you haven’t seen the trailer or the film yet. Do yourself a favor and just bookmark this post and come back to it after you see the film if this subject interests you. If for some reason you don’t care about spoilers or won’t be watching the movie anyways, by all means read on…
In one three minute trailer, we learn almost everything we need to know about the film:
We see the ambush of the trappers by the Ree tribe.
We see the formation of a conflict between Tom Hardy’s character, Fitzgerald, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Glass.
We see the insane bear attack and learn that Glass is horribly wounded, and that Fitzgerald thinks he should be put out of his misery.
We see Fitzgerald kill Glass’s son Hawk, and bury Glass alive.
We see that Fitzgerald lies about this.
We see that Glass survives and makes it back to the camp to tell his story.
We know that this is a revenge movie with elements of survival in the brutal wild of the American frontier.
The thing is, The Revenant follows this exact structure. There are no surprises beyond the band of Ree hunting down the chieftain’s missing daughter and a few side characters.
It all plays out exactly how we expected it would thanks to the spoiler-drenched trailer. Sure, there’s gorgeous shots and some truly insane violence and action sequences, but we aren’t surprised when Hawk is killed or Glass is left to die. We’re robbed of that surprise.
The first Revenant trailer was much better. Here it is:
We see a frozen frontier, some fighting, Leo riding hard on a horse, men trudging up a snowy slope. It’s mysterious and beautiful and brilliant. It’s the only trailer this film ever needed.
I never meant to watch a second, spoiler-filled trailer to begin with either. I saw it, like many others I’m sure, while sitting in the movie theater waiting to see a different film. When it came on, I thought it was the first trailer. Instead, I watched in horror as a movie I was very excited to see was spoiled before my eyes. I still loved the film. I’ll have a review up about it soon. But I feel extremely disappointed that the marketing people for the picture would be so cavalier in giving it all away.
It makes me kind of angry, honestly. It’s like a betrayal. Sure, I get that you want to sell tickets. You don’t have to spoil the entire story to get audiences to come see it, though. Other films do a much better job. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was kept remarkably under wraps, even while key characters and story elements were revealed.
But The Revenant? Completely spoiled for no good reason at all. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy together will sell plenty of tickets. A really mysterious, dark looking frontier “Western” (though Iñárritu doesn’t want to call it that) would have drawn the right crowd. This was just a slap in the face to moviegoers.